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Funding Critical for Public Schools

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The following post is by Sarah Yost, a 2013-14 Hope Street Group Fellow who teaches 8th grade English Language Arts at Westport Middle School in Kentucky.

Education funding is critical to my students learning because it provides them with the resources necessary to access the same opportunities as students of greater means. I work with children in poverty, and school is the main place many of them come for safety. For some, it is the only access they have to a world outside the ones they experience -- which are sometimes violent or hostile places.

Funding can provide educators with an opportunity to take their students out of the classroom to have real experiences they may not otherwise have or imagine. Funding can enrich learning experiences and make them real and authentic. Funding can put technology into my students' hands that not only engages them and opens their eyes, but also provides them with 21st century skills and supports their skill development in reading, mathematics and all content areas. Funding can bring in extra people to support students with severe learning gaps who are often concentrated in specific schools with teachers who are exhausted or spread thin trying to meet all the needs -- academically and otherwise -- of their students. Funding can buy time and interventions with after school programs and extra access to reading and mathematics help.

For me personally, funding has had a huge impact on my students and my own growth as a more effective educator. First, my position is funded through an outside source -- a grant my school received through the University of Louisville. I am a teacher and want to remain in the classroom, but also have a lot of potential for instructional leadership. I am motivated to go the extra mile for my students and the whole school. My position as "Master Teacher" allows me to teach two classes and spend the rest of my day developing resources, supporting teachers, leading initiatives, monitoring student data and interventions, leading professional development and more. Our school has had great gains in all areas since I have been in this position, and I do believe my work has contributed to our growth.

Another example of how funding has impacted my students is through another grant we received for Chrome books this year. English/Language Arts teachers each received five books, and the library received a set that classes can check out. The Chrome books have transformed my writing instruction. Students can now type their essay drafts rather than hand write them, and we don't lose any time in transitioning to the computer lab or library. I am able to provide better feedback on Google Docs as the Cloud software allows me to access student work anywhere and revise my comments before I post them. Students can immediately see my feedback wherever they are, and I can track the changes of their revisions. I have definitely seen the quality of their work improve since we were granted these Chrome books.

A third example of how funding has had a direct impact on my students is through a district initiative for Extended School Services here in the Jefferson County Public Schools. As a priority school we were given funding to hold Extended School Services (ESS) until 5 p.m. three days a week. The grant supports four teachers, two in reading and two in mathematics, to work with students for each of those days. It also provides lunch for the students and pays for a bus to take them home. Our work with targeted groups of novice-high and apprentice-high students showed great results this winter when nearly all of them made significant gains in their MAP testing scores.

Funding is critical for public schools because without it, the gap between wealthy and poor will continue to widen in our state. We must prioritize the needs of our least advantaged children in order to break the cycle of poverty and ultimately lower our prison population and increase our college graduates. Improving students' school experience can keep them in school, succeeding and contributing, longer and off the streets forever.

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